Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Resisting completion

I have always found it much easier to start projects than to finish them. New projects are exciting and full of possibilities. I can dream about what I could do and how it will look when it is finished. I get excited about the vision of the final product. I pull out materials, look at designs, consider alternatives. This part is fun and can last a long time. Then at some point I get inspired to start -- I cut into the fabric, I sew together some of the pieces. At some point the project stalls. Maybe I can't figure out one step of the instructions. Maybe I can't decide what color to use for the binding. Maybe I just get too busy with other things. Then the project may languish for months or years before I get back to it. At that point, the enthusiasm has faded; the bloom is off the rose. While I still have the vision for the project, there is less impetus to keep moving on it. I'll often put the project away and start something else. While I do occasionally come back to an old project and work on it, sometimes even finishing it, I have all-too-many incomplete projects (I hesitate to even call them works-in-progress) to testify to this pattern.

In the last few months, I've been trying to revisit old projects and complete them -- to clear the boards for the new academic year. The unfinished projects have started to feel like an albatross around my neck (and no, it doesn't come with wafers). Plus, I am sick of feeling guilty about the incomplete projects, and I want to be able to have something to show for the work I have done.

I've made some headway -- I finished two house-painting projects, and I'm pleased with how they came out. But I've also figured out one reason I resist finishing projects. When something is finished, its possibilities are complete. It is all it will ever be, for good or ill. And sometimes (many times?), it is for ill. I finished two skirts, and while they are well constructed, they just don't look good on me. My vision was not realized, and the work seems wasted. Frankly, it's disheartening and depressing. I would rather have the incomplete project, with its dream of beauty, than the completed object, with its flawed reality.

I guess I understand why someone might be a dreamer -- having your head in the clouds means you don't have to see the dirt you're kicking up behind you.

I know that I have to be prepared that some projects won't work out the way I thought. I know that everyone has a certain "crap quota" -- we need to make a lot of bad stuff to get to the good stuff. I know that I should see these as learning experiences and think about what I could do differently next time. I know that it doesn't mean that I'm incompetent. I know that (in theory) I can make things that do fulfill my vision and make my heart sing. I know.

But in the meantime, maybe I'll just dream up a new project and live in its possibilities. What's so great about finishing things, anyway? Shouldn't we just enjoy the journey? ;)

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